Executive Team

Alison Baum, CEO and Founder

Alison is an Oxford University science graduate with a background at the BBC where she worked on programmes including Horizon and Tomorrow’s World, communicating key scientific and medical breakthroughs. She has used her leadership and executive production experience to pioneer the development of innovative resources including DVDs, art and mobile apps to support the emotional and physical transition to parenthood.

Before launching Best Beginnings, Alison set up an internet-based social enterprise called Express Yourself Mums, providing information and products for new mothers. In 2006, she founded Best Beginnings and wasted no time: within just four weeks, the charity formed and led a coalition of more than 35 organisations, including five Royal Colleges and UNICEF, to lobby for the implementation of the Breastfeeding Manifesto. A year later, Alison won the Sheila McKechnie Foundation award for Health and Social Campaigner of the Year. In 2014, Alison was awarded CPHVA Campaigner of the Year and Woman of Democracy. In January 2017 she was awarded an OBE for services to Tackling Child Health Inequalities.

Twitter: @alisonbaum

Stephanie Knowles, Strategic Director

Stephanie is a Chartered Accountant with 15 years post qualification experience, following her training with PwC as a Charities Specialist. She has been working with Charities, SMEs and Start Ups as a Finance Director for several years, as well as being a Charity Trustee and School Governor. In recent years she has worked with a focus on women's health charities and companies. She has a passion for driving forward the aims of the Charity by maximising value and reducing risks.

Stephanie has two children who keep her busy in her free time.

Email: [email protected]

William Thomas, Business Manager

William has joined Best Beginnings as Business Manager; supporting the Executive Team and organisation as a whole. His career has seen him lead in business development and operations across small and start-up charities, non-profits and businesses since graduating in Law and French from Cardiff University. His work has spanned management of organisations and projects across the arts and culture, sports, knife crime, environment and education.

Email: [email protected]





Engagement Team 

Yasmin Morgan, Acting Head of Engagement 

Yasmin joined Best Beginnings in November 2021. She used the Baby Buddy app throughout her pregnancy and maternity, and acted as a parent voice, sharing her experiences at the Surrey Roundtable events and recorded a podcast with Dame Andrea Leadsom MP, chair of the Early Years Healthy Development Review. This led her to joining the team initially as an Engagement Lead.

Alongside her role at Best Beginnings, Yasmin is a member of the Epsom and St Helier Hospitals Maternity Voices Partnership. She has a passion and interest in seeing her local maternity service improve, as well as the outcomes, experience and safety of all parents and children. Additionally, Yasmin is part of the Parent Advisory Group and involved in a 3-year project on ethnic inequalities in healthcare for babies and children under 5 years old in England.

 Yasmin is a first time Mum of one and in her spare time, she enjoys long walks with her son, reading and socialising with her friends and family.

Email: [email protected]




Digital and Content Team

Matthew Black, Head of Digital and Content

Matt has been with Best Beginnings since May 2017. Initially working in operations and embedding project delivery, he has since moved into Digital Projects to manage agile product development and evolution of Best Beginnings' digital roadmap. Matt prioritises data and effective collaboration in his work, and strives to combine these elements into delivering accessible tech.  

Born and raised in Bermuda, Matt studied Modern Languages at Durham University. His passion for languages has taken him all over South America, where he worked for a fundraising cooperative in Buenos Aires that connects local charities with international funding bodies. After graduation Matthew dipped his toes into the world of financial audit before finding his way to Best Beginnings where he has had the opportunity to work on a diverse set of projects and effect the positive change that drives him.

Email: [email protected]



Jake Elgood Field, Digital Lead

Jake became part of the Best Beginnings team in September 2019 as a Digital Product Manager. His main focus is the Baby Buddy app, ensuring it delivers on the needs of its users as well as thinking ahead to the future in terms of ways it can improve.

He grew up in London then studied History at the University of York. After graduating he worked for two years at a startup, before joining Best Beginnings. His greatest achievement is probably reaching the dizzy heights of number one in England in the official Fantasy football league.

Email: [email protected]





Jenny Mcleish, Content Writer

Jenny has written the copy for the Baby Buddy app since 2011.  Her career as a researcher, writer, advisor, trainer and campaigner has been dedicated to improving the lives of disadvantaged families. Her areas of expertise include inequalities affecting young parents, migrant parents and parents living with mental illness, with a broader focus on maternity services, volunteer and peer support, poverty and nutrition.

 

Alongside her role at Best Beginnings, Jenny is a qualitative researcher at the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit at Oxford University, and is studying for a PhD on perinatal mental health and peer support at City, University of London. She is also the Strategic Coordinator for the National Teenage Pregnancy Midwifery Network. She finds that having one foot in the voluntary sector and the other in the academic sector enables creative cross-fertilisation. Like the rest of the Best Beginnings team, she could do with a few extra hours in each day!




Nicola Cadbury, Content Lead

Nicola joined the Best Beginnings team in February 2020 as Content Lead to develop engaging, accessible and evidence-based content for the Baby Buddy parenting app. Previously she worked as Senior Policy and Communications Manager for the National Literacy Trust, focusing on influencing work related to language, communication and literacy development in the early years. Prior to that she led campaigns at ActionAid, including the Tax Justice campaign and the Send My Friend to School coalition. This campaign contributed to the UK government becoming the leading global education donor and engaged over a million young people in the UK, supporting them to develop as confident campaigners.

Nicola’s voluntary sector career includes extensive experience across communications, campaigning, fundraising and partnerships work. She is passionate about tackling inequalities and ensuring that every child is able to realise their rights to nurturing care, health and education.     

Email: [email protected]



Ruth Edmondson, Senior Video Producer

Ruth joined the Best Beginnings team in 2022 as Senior Video Producer. She has been a producer, director and editor for 20 years, specialising in video content for charities, healthcare (particularly maternity services) and educational organisations. Her focus has always been on capturing and sharing emotional stories that help bring about positive change. Ruth believes in sharing her skills to empower others - as co-founder of a video training academy, she trains individuals and organisations to create their own promotional, educational and social videos using smartphones. Ruth is mum to twin boys and a rescue terrier. She enjoys choir singing and volunteering with a local neighbourhood food project.

Email: [email protected]



Flynn Hagerty, Digital Content Officer

Flynn joined Best Beginnings in February 2021 as the Digital Content Officer. Born and raised in San Francisco, he came to the UK to study English and Comparative Literature at Goldsmiths, University of London before staying on. Flynn has over a decade’s experience in the content and communications sectors for a further education college and a large charity, leading on email publishing before joining Best Beginnings.

 Flynn is the father of a seven-year-old boy and in his spare time loves travel, music, baseball and all other kinds of sport. Oh, and baseball caps!

Email: [email protected]


Delivery Team

Amiliah Doherty, Delivery Lead

Amiliah joins Best Beginnings as one of our Delivery Leads, supporting on the delivery of key projects. Amiliah is an experienced project manager with an education and background in psychology and mental health. Previously working for Place2Be, a national children’s mental health charity, she was the project lead for the Coalition for Diversity and Inclusion, a group of psychological industry bodies committed to promoting inclusive practice and training within the sector. She brings with her an interest in social and systemic justice and a passion for early years development.

Email: [email protected]


Safer Beginnings

Kay King, Programme Director

Kay King joined the Best Beginnings Team as Programme Director in January 2022. Kay comes to us from her previous position of Executive Director of White Ribbon Alliance UK- part of the global alliance based movement for reproductive health and rights. Kay will be overseeing our new ‘Safer Beginnings’ programme, in partnership with White Ribbon Alliance and will also take the baton of future development of our Early Years Digital Partnership.

Having committed her career to seeking creative and systemic solutions to increase justice and overcome inequalities Kay brings to Best Beginnings an extensive knowledge of the global landscape of maternity and early years. As well as her work with us Kay is a doula and birth activist, specialising in supporting families through birth informed by loss. Her doula career began in Sub Saharan Africa, a part of the world in which she has spent many years working and continues to hold deep passion for.

Kay is the mother of two children and an active ally of the LGBTQ+ community. As a Queer mother and an openly public survivor of faith based childhood sexual abuse Kay brings her lived experience, passion and devoted drive to the Best Beginnings team to see the successful programmes she directs come into powerful fruition. When not working Kay enjoys her studies, reading, socialising with friends and walking her new Dalmatian puppy.

Email: [email protected]


Evaluation, Impact and Policy Team

Nilushka Perera, Head of Evaluation, Impact and Policy

Born and raised in Sri Lanka, Nilushka joined the Best Beginnings family in 2016. With a background in Psychology and International Public Health, Nilu is passionate about research and collaboration to strengthen our understanding of reaching communities through the intersections of behavioural health, digital health and inequalities in global health. Nilu is also a Mental Health and Psychosocial Practitioner in Sri Lanka where she is involved in research and development projects to support access to holistic support in diverse communities. In her free time, Nilu enjoys singing, experiencing new places and yoga.

Email: [email protected]




Mariana Jose Santos da Silva, Evaluation, Impact & Policy Officer

Mariana joined Best Beginnings at the start of 2021 after volunteering with our Evaluation and Impact Team for a few months. Born and raised in a small town in Portugal, Mariana moved to Hong Kong in 2016 to finish school, and then to London in 2018 to study Global Health at university. She has since graduated from the course with a newfound passion for women's health, reproductive justice, and making sure that children especially are given the best chance at life.

Her role involves collaborating with other members of the team as well as liaising with other organisations to put together projects which have a meaningful impact on the community. She is a big believer in taking initiative, seeing the good and trusting the process.

Email: [email protected]

Jaskiran Gill, Policy & Impact Lead

Jakiran was born in India, raised in Canada, and now lives in England. She joined Best Beginnings in April 2022. Her background focuses on biological sciences, psychology, and public health. Previously, Jaskiran worked as a Public Health Inspector in which she managed COVID-19 outbreaks, enforced public health regulations, and analyzed communicable disease control standards and guidelines. Her focus has always been on understanding the effect of current health guidelines, designing and proposing new programs and policies that will have a positive impact on the community.  She is passionate about reproductive health, early childhood mental health, and health equity. Outside of work, she is an event planner and fashion designer, and loves traveling, badminton, and reading.

Email: [email protected]


Maternity Voices Partnership

Apshana Haque, Maternity Voices Chair for Tower Hamlets

Apshana is the Maternity Voice Partnership Chair for Tower Hamlets. She has been with Best Beginnings since April 2021 and her role is to help empower the voices of parents in the community and ensure their voice is then used to improve and drive change in the local maternity services.

Email: [email protected]



Sarina Mahmed, Maternity Voices Chair for Newham

Sarina is the Maternity Voice Partnership chair for Newham. Prior to this she worked in the education sector as an early years and primary school teacher. She has been on a teaching career break for the last few years to be a stay at home mum and bring up her 3 young children. At Best Beginnings her role is to be an integral communicator between parents and the maternity services to assist, improve and help make a positive change.  

Email: [email protected]




Communications Team

Andrea Otto, Head of Marketing and Communications

Andrea is a Stakeholder and Product Launch Specialist who helps Corporates, Startups and organisations to successfully launch their products and services with a collaborative approach .

She worked for multinational companies as Global Marketing and Partner Expert in various industries with a focus on IT & Telecoms Industry for more than 15 years. Andrea now advises companies and organisations on how to plan and execute a target-oriented launch campaign with partnership at the core. 
Andrea is Acting as Head of Marketing and Communications and is supporting the Best Beginnings Team with the new Baby Buddy 2.0 rollout and launch activities. 
She is a mother of a 2 and a 4 year old and enjoys all kinds of outdoor activities.

Email: [email protected]





Rebecca Liss, Communications Officer

Rebecca is the Communications Officer at Best Beginnings, assisting the communications team and supporting the creation of content across our social channels. She completed a degree in Philosophy, Ethics and Religion at the University of Leeds. Rebecca previously worked for a human rights law firm on their marketing and fundraising projects, which fuelled her desire to work for an organisation that focuses on eliminating the social inequalities that exist in our society. Rebecca hopes to make a real impact on the lives of disadvantaged families during her time with Best Beginnings.

Email: [email protected]




Finance and Administration Team

Clive Field, Head of Finance 

Clive is a qualified accountant with 30 years’ experience in the NHS including roles as Director of Finance at Acute, Mental Health and Community Trusts. He joined Best Beginnings in November 2021 as Head of Finance following a role as Director of Finance at a Breast Cancer Awareness charity. In a world of finite resources and apparently infinite demand, Clive is passionate about delivering the highest quality services and Value for Money

He has also been a Trustee at another charity for 6 years having previously served as Chair of Governors at his children’s Primary School for 8 years. In his spare time he is a father of 3 (grown up) children and a huge rugby and cricket fan.




Katarina Kent, Office, Administration & HR Lead

Katarina has been working for Best Beginnings since January 2017 as an administrative assistant for the office and finance department. Her educational background is in economy and social work. She has a strong interest in medicine and psychology too. She is a mother of three beautiful children and understand all the challenges which parenthood can bring, so Best Beginnings is close to her heart.

Email: [email protected]



Khushida Begum, Accounts Apprentice

Khushida initially joined Best Beginnings on the See, Hear, Respond programme and has now had an amazing opportunity to be a part of the finance team as an apprentice. She has huge passion to be working within charities, especially one aimed to give children the best start in life as she has personal experience being a looked after child. 

Email: [email protected]


Nellie Chibhanguza, Finance Assistant

Nellie joined Best Beginnings in February 2021. She is works in the Finance team as a Finance Assistant. Over the years, she has worked across different private sectors holding various roles within the finance and accounting field. Working for and with Best Beginnings has really been invaluable as she is a mother of 2 young children.

Email: [email protected]







Expert Volunteers

Alison Spiro, Health Visiting and Breastfeeding Lead

Alison became involved with Best Beginnings after she met Alison Baum in 2006 at the opening of a breastfeeding café in an ethnically diverse North London borough. She trained peer supporters to work in these support groups, and they represented the local community, speaking over 20 local languages. She worked as a health visitor for 20 years and a specialist in breastfeeding for 10 years, when she also seconded to a local hospital. Anne used Bump to Breastfeeding DVD and Small Wonders when training community and hospital staff, and these helped both trusts to become Unicef Baby Friendly accredited.

Anne holds a PhD in social anthropology and completed her field work in India. She was awarded the Julie Crawford Award for services to breastfeeding and the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother’s Award for outstanding service. Anne currently represents Best Beginnings on the Baby Feeding Law Group, the World Breastfeeding Trends initiative, the Breastfeeding Alliance and the APPG on Infant Feeding and Inequalities. She is a professional advisor for the Institute of Health Visiting, an honorary lecturer at Brunel University and volunteers in local breastfeeding support groups.